Dixwell Donut Shop Packs A Mighty Punch

Juliette Lao | May 24th, 2023

Dixwell Donut Shop Packs A Mighty Punch

Culture & Community  |  Economic Development  |  Hamden  |  Arts & Culture  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative  |  Culinary Arts



Yericka Estrada. Juliette Lao Photos.

It was just past 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and Yericka Estrada was getting ready for another batch of her signature guava and cream cheese donuts. In front of her, rings of dough sizzled in hot oil, floating towards a rack that would flip them onto the other side. Estrada followed the process all the way to a cooling tray under a warm light.

They arrived, still toasty, in a red-and-white takeout container with guava sauce and cream cheese drizzle on top. 

Welcome to Mighty Donuts, a new donut shop at 1166 Dixwell Ave. in Hamden. Run by Estrada with staff members Sonia Ortiz, Xiomara Perez, and Genesis Velazquez, it serves up small, still-warm donuts that remind Estrada of her home in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. It has been open at its current space since December of last year. 

“We are trying to create something for our kids,” Estrada said in a recent interview with the Arts Paper. “We just picked something we don’t have in Connecticut that our community doesn't have like we do in our country on our island.”


The guava and cream cheese donuts. Juliette Lao Photos.

The shop has been a longtime dream, brought to sweet fruition last year. In 2011, Estrada and her family moved to Hamden from Vega Alta in search of a better work situation. For years, she and her husband Luis discussed starting a business that could help support their three boys. Originally, she was a nail artist, with a salon that was open on Dixwell Avenue for 12 years. 

Then at The Big E a few years ago, she and Luis noticed that people seemed to love the miniature donuts that the fair doled out by the handful. They weren’t so different from Puerto Rican domplines, bits of fried dough that are served with savory and sweet sauces, or dusted with powdered sugar. It got her thinking about a new business venture. When the storefront beside her old nail salon became available, it seemed like a perfect opportunity. 

"Even though the business is small, it was created for my kids,” she said. “It's a family business because the purpose of everything [of] Mighty Donuts is to pass it to my kids."

Four months in, she described the space as on a “good avenue” where there are a lot of people. Passing traffic helps drum up business. 

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Juliette Lao Photos.

Although Estrada does not consider herself a baker, the job has pushed her to try out different flavor combinations, from dulce de leche caramel to maple bacon, with real maple syrup and bits of crumbled bacon sprinkled on top. There are mini donuts topped with whipped cream and miniature s’mores, crimson-colored guava with sweet cream cheese drizzle, and plain donuts for those who want them. She is big on sweet and salty combos, which mix to form new flavor sensations on a visitor’s tongue. 

The shop is also hard to miss. Outside (and inside on windy days), the front window boasts a larger-than-life, muscular baby surrounded by sprinkle-covered doughnuts falling from the sky. The design was inspired by a suggestion from Yericka's husband Luis, who is interested in fitness and mentioned it to his wife when she was pregnant. The two found a designer who could bring the vision to life. 

"Soon we will look for more ways to get more attention out there,” Estrada said in Spanish. “You know, we are starting calmly and getting there bit by bit."

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Siblings Donovan and Cordelia Doviak. Juliette Lao Photos.

Mighty Donuts has also worked to partner with community members and educational institutions. After an email query earlier this year, they began a collaboration with the New Jersey based Liberty Middle School to help promote literacy among young kids. By the cash register, there are rectangular cards that read Here’s Your Ticket, with a scratch-off option that enters students in a prize raffle to win a book. 

On a recent Saturday, several customers said they were excited to see the shop on Dixwell. Siblings Donovan and Cordelia Doviak came in to test some of the cinnamon sugared double dozen donuts. Walking in, they were delighted at the black and white donut on the splatter-painted walls and three vintage pay phones nearby. 

While waiting to order, Donovan noticed two other customers leaving gleefully with cups of lemonade. 

"Yeah it’s nice to have a donut shop in this part of Hamden,” he said. “ You usually have to go to New Haven or get like Dunkin. It's nice to have an actual donut shop for sure." 

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Nearby, Shalisa Suero said that after she heard about Mighty Donuts, it didn't take long before she was checking out the shop with her brother. As she chatted, he ordered his favorite—a Nutella and whipped cream donut with chopped strawberries on top. 

Suero said she never gets tired of the donuts. The first time she was in the store, she ordered a dozen small donuts with vanilla and fruity pebbles. Saturday, she recommended the powdered-sugar donuts with vanilla and the graham crackers and  chopped bananas.

Both agreed that Mighty Doughnuts is a great addition to Hamden. They both love how family-oriented and the unique the shop is.

“I thought she was creative,” Suero said. “She is the only one in New Haven with an actual shop. I didn't think as many people would come as they do.”

This article comes from the 2023 Cohort of the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative. Juliette Lao is a senior at New Haven Academy.